Monday, February 22, 2016

Good Times movie? One of the most bizarre news items I've seen

A bizarre story appeared on Deadline the other day reporting on the original cast of the 1970s urban sitcom "Good Times" crowdsourcing a new feature film.

The original cast of Norman Lear’s groundbreaking 1970s sitcom Good Times has taken to Kickstarter to fund an original movie the includes the same characters. The Original Good Times Cast Movie brings together all the original stars (sans Esther Rolle, who died in 1998).

Anything without Rolle is suboptimal, but the way I look at ANY potential new "Good Times"  project is: Does it involve John Amos? If so, it may be worthwhile. If not, it's a non-starter.

The project, which Jimmie “Dyn-o-mite” Walker calls a docu-drama-comedy, is being done to give fans closure on what happened to Lear’s fictional Chicago family.

"Closure"? The series wasn't yanked in the middle of a season. It had a final episode that depicted the remaining characters essentially leaving the projects, thereby eliminating the whole point of the series. Are there fans who see a copy of "Good Times" Season 4 on the shelf at Wal-Mart, pick it up, then think, "Nahhhh. I don't want to see these again.  The show left me hanging for 40  years."

The cast is doing this together outside of rights owner Sony, saying that they are not infringing on the copyright or trademark.

Oh, really? I don't doubt they are SAYING that, but...

“In the case of Good Times there is going to be a comparison, but it’s not an infringement of copyright,” said Shaun Weiss, who is the attorney for both BernNadette Stanis (who played Thelma in the TV show) and the project. Kevin Fontana is her manager. “What we are doing is bringing a new era into the cast. The characters have never been copyrighted or trademarked,” said Weiss.

Big props to Deadline for being professional enough to not ads a row of smiley face emojis after this. I'm guessing Weiss' legal expertise is not in the realm of copyright or trademark law.

Does Walker's phrase "docu-drama-comedy" mean they think they can play the actors playing the characters and somehow get away with it? And what the hell does that phrase mean, anyway?

Stanis, Walker, John Amos, Ralph Carter and Ja’Net DuBois are part of the new project, with Johnny Brown, who played Bookman, also likely to be involved, said Weiss.


Uh, wait, I mean, no, I am not contributing to this. AHEM. Back to reality. Later in the piece:

Lear’s ACT III told Deadline that Sony owns the rights to Good Times, which Weiss acknowledged.
“They are the rights holder to the DVDs and VHSs … that’s a whole different entity to what the cast is doing,” Weiss said. “They are not going to use any part of footage from Good Times, so when it comes to licensing that, there is no licensing that must be attained for that. We’ve applied for copyrights for the trademarking the characters, the licensing and images and the logo, so when we go forward with the original cast for the Good Times movie, we can protect the movie as a logo.”

What the hell does THIS mean? This just looks massively off the mark.

The Kickstarter promo reel for the new project does use footage from the original show, for which they said they got clearance from Sony. The company had no comment.

Maybe Sony thinks this is some kind of elaborate prank and/or performance art piece. Is Shia LeBouf or James Franco on board with this project?

Another weird thing about this piece is that it makes no mention of Sony's own "Good Times" feature film project, which was announced last year and to which the creator of ABC sitcom "Blackish" was attached. One would think Sony would have more of an interest in this story than the piece indicates.

Fans, my advice: Don't invest any money in this yet unless you have a chance to get a John Amos autograph. If you need closure, the complete original series is on DVD for 40 bucks.

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